Some children have a hard time handling information coming through their senses. Too much or too little stimulation from sound, touch, taste, smell, and sight can cause distress. Besides the five common senses, there are also two less well-known senses — the sense of body awareness (proprioception) and vestibular, which involves movement, balance, and coordination.
Children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) may also have problems integrating sensory information, such as things they see and hear simultaneously.
Sensory processing issues can be tough on kids and interfere with learning and socializing. When your child is struggling with sensory processing, you need an expert team to evaluate them and offer therapy options that improve their functioning.
The team at PediaPlex specializes in identifying sensory challenges. We offer sensory testing and treatment, and together we can help your child regulate their senses.
What are sensory processing disorders?
Frequently, sensory processing disorders become apparent for the first time during the toddler years when parents see an unusual reaction to noise, light, or clothing. Children with SPD may throw tantrums when parents dress them and have an abnormally low or high tolerance for stimulation coming into their senses.
These and other abnormal behaviors may result from sensory processing issues — the inability to integrate information from the senses — which can overwhelm children.
Many children and people on the autism spectrum also have significant sensory difficulties. However, many children with sensory issues do not have an autism spectrum disorder.
Signs of sensory processing disorder
While signs of sensory processing disorder are diverse, SPD affects each child differently. SPD has two classifications: sensory seeking and sensory avoidance.
Common symptoms of sensory seeking include:
- Head banging
- Eating too fast
- Chewing on non-food items
- Rubbing eyes or lips
- Picking at skin
- Rocking back and forth
Common symptoms of sensory avoidance include:
- Pushing away touch
- Crying or screaming in response to noises
- Running away from stimulation
- Irritability from noise, sight, sound, or touch
Children with SPD often have the following in common:
Aversion to textures and certain fabrics – Children with SPD often feel overwhelmed and irritated by certain clothing fabrics like wool. They may fuss or cry and try to remove their clothing.
Intolerance to noise – Some children with SPD have difficulty tolerating specific sounds, while others may find loud noises too stimulating. They may cry, get upset, or run away from noises.
Aversion to certain food textures – Many children with SPD refuse to eat certain textures of food. They may spit it out, fuss, or refuse to put it in their mouth.
Fine motor skill difficulty – Some children with SPD have trouble using crayons, buttons, or other things that require fine motor skills.
Transitioning challenges – While all young children need transition time, a child with SPD can have significant problems with switching from one activity to another, or moving from one place to another, such as changing classrooms.
Easily distracted – It’s difficult for children with SPD to block out distractions, such as sounds, sights, or smells. Your child may get upset at school and have problems completing school work if a particular smell suddenly drifts into the classroom.
A sensory integration evaluation is one of the tools we use at our practice to diagnose sensory processing disorder. This evaluation helps determine how your child’s neurological system responds to sensory stimuli through the five senses. Then, our occupational therapist recommends adjustments that help your child function better.
Helping children with sensory processing disorders
Occupational therapists are the specialists that assist children with sensory difficulties. At PediaPlex, our occupational therapists engage children in physical activities designed to control their sensory input, allowing them to feel more comfortable, safe, and able to concentrate.
Many parents have discovered that these therapies and exercises help their children feel and operate better. Diagnosing sensory difficulties and working with an occupational therapist assists many children in becoming calmer and better regulated.
If you’re concerned that your child may have sensory challenges, the PediaPlex team can create an individualized treatment plan to help your child overcome sensory processing issues. Call one of our offices in Southlake, Fort Worth, or Frisco, Texas today, and schedule a visit to have your child evaluated. We are devoted to helping children thrive.